Can legal operations benefit all legal teams?

4 minutes • 22 Jun 22


Can legal operations benefit all legal teams?

Legal ops is for all legal teams

Legal operations helps improve the performance of legal departments. To date, the adoption of dedicated legal operations teams has primarily been limited to larger legal departments.

The largest organization in the legal ops space is the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, or CLOC, and they define legal operations as:

“a set of business processes, activities and the professionals that enable legal departments to serve their clients more effectively by applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal services.”

The CLOC definition risks discouraging some legal teams from developing a legal ops agenda as the CLOC definition does not appear to be relevant to them.

For example, most legal teams around the world are actually small in size (1-5 legal professionals) and do not have a dedicated legal operations team.

We think more legal teams would develop legal ops agendas if legal ops were actually defined in a way that was more accessible to the wider in-house legal community.

In this blog we offer a definition of legal operations that is relevant to most legal teams and encourages the exploration of legal efficiency.

We believe that more legal teams will be willing to explore how a legal ops can drive improved performance and drive legal transformation.

CLOC has a narrow focus on legal ops

CLOC's focus tends to be on larger corporations with more well-resourced legal departments, including dedicated legal operations personnel - as you might typically find in MNC context.

In CLOC’s 2021 State of the Industry Survey" – see here, it is noted that:

  • a small legal dept is profiled as having 15 full time lawyers; and
  • its survey respondents had on average 7 FTE dedicated legal operations personnel.

Our experience is that the average in-house legal team is one that:

  • comprises 1-5 in-house lawyers and often just a single General Counsel;
  • faces legal service requests that far outweigh legal team capacity
  • desperately needs to improve in-house lawyer productivity
  • has limited legal department resources available to it; and
  • is currently unable to deploy dedicated legal operations team

As you can see - the characteristic of the average legal team does not really match up with the CLOC's definition of legal ops - that is a legal department with a dedicated legal ops team.

Does this mean that smaller legal teams cannot benefit from enhanced vendor management, data analytics, legal analytics tools, legal tech including artificial intelligence and predictive analysis?

Absolutely not! All legal teams can benefit from legal ops.

CLOC focuses on the needs of large legal teams with dedicated legal ops capability

Most legal teams globally compromise between 1-5 in-house lawyers and barely any have a dedicated legal ops support team - making them fall outside CLOCs definition of legal ops.

Not many in-house legal teams will have access to the same level of resources available to the legal teams at Google, Microsoft, Gap, Oracle, Fidelity Investments. CLOC's leadership come these organizations.

As such, it should not be surprising that CLOCs agenda tends to focus on the legal ops agenda of similarly larger companies.

Unsurprisingly, the CLOC agenda focuses on the concerns of larger legal teams with dedicated legal operations capabilities, to the exclusion of most legal departments globally.

In our opinion, CLOCs definition risks discouraging the average in-house legal team from considering legal ops as a means to improve legal team performance.

This is an unacceptable outcome as almost every in-house legal team is struggling to meet legal support requests with the resources available to them. New productivity strategies must be encouraged.

As we say above ...

Legal Operations can benefit all in-house legal teams

Every legal team, no matter how big or how small they are can benefit from a legal operations agenda not least of which because all in-house legal teams are under constant pressure to engage in legal team transformation - see our Blog GLS Legal Ops Opinion: In-house legal teams must transform.

Indeed, we believe that more legal teams would consider developing legal ops if it is defined in a way that makes it relevant to their legal team. Legal ops cannot be the exclusive domain of extremely large legal teams.

We take a far more “practical” and “accessible” approach to defining legal operations – one that allows any legal department to benefit from a legal operations function.

Accordingly, at Global Legal Solutions we view “legal operations” as:

“the means of maximizing the productivity expression of ALL available IHL resources, in provable ways, and which drive IHL value recognition.”

Legal ops is more helpfully understood as making sure your legal team constantly considers how to achieve more with the resources it has and gives more thought on how performance is measured and reported.

Our definition of legal operations is really simple. It simply requires legal teams putting more conscious thought into the use of legal department resources and trying to track performance outcomes.

With our definition any legal departments can use legal operations to drive performance - something you can still do without presence of legal operations professionals with access to significant resources.

Get your legal ops agenda started

So there you have it - legal ops is in fact for every legal team provided it is defined properly.

If you want to learn how you can place your every day legal department decision making into a strategic legal transformation content (ie legal ops), please read our blog RPLV: Transformative Decision Making.

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